PHOENIX - On Friday, FOX 10 spoke with the lawyer of expelled state lawmaker Don Shooter, as controversy mounts for a state lawmaker accused of sexually harassing a lobbyist.
Michelle Ugenti-Rita became the face of the #MeToo movement at the Arizona State Capitol, after she revealed that she was the target of sexual harassment by her male colleagues.
In a post made in October 2017 on her Facebook page, Ugenti-Rita, a state representative at the time, said she experienced "unwanted sexual advances and lewd and suggestive comments regarding my body and appearance from male colleagues" almost immediately upon her arrival to the State Capitol.
Accusations leveled by Ugenti-Rita became one of a number of sexual harassment accusations that ended with the expulsion of Shooter from the legislature. According to the Associated Press, Shooter is the first state lawmaker to be expelled since the emergence of the #MeToo movement.
In a court deposition filed on behalf of Shooter, a lobbyist claims that Ugenti-Rita and Brian Townsend, a former staffer for Gov. Doug Ducey, sexually harassed her by repeatedly propositioning for a three-way sexual encounter.
Townsend is Ugenti-Rita's husband, and the lobbyist who levelled the accusations was a former staffer of Townsend.
The lobbyist claims Townsend sent her nude photos on more than one occasion. The lobbyist also believes that Ugenti-Rita knew of them. Ugenti-Rita has confirmed that she was the person featured in the nude photos, but claims she didn't know that Townsend sent the photos, and that it was a source of difficulty in their relationship, in the months prior to their marriage.
According to the deposition, once knowledge of the photos started circulating at the State Capitol, the lobbyist claims Ugenti-Rita started yelled at her in a bathroom, calling her a liar. Ugenti-Rita did not deny that claim in her statement, which could open the door to possible witness intimidation accusations.
On Thursday, Ugenti-Rita refused to answer questions as she was on her way out of a hearing at the Arizona State Capitol near Downtown Phoenix.
"When we win our lawsuit, [Don Shooter will] be vindicated," said Shooter's attorney, Stuart Bernstein. "He was thrown out on an investigation that we all think was improper. He wasn't given his due process."
Bernstein says the House investigation at the time "whitewashed the allegations of nude photos, the requests for three-way encounter, and intimidation from Ugenti-Rita and her husband in an effort to single out shooter.'"
"I'm not gonna sit here and excuse, because everyone has their own opinion," said Bernstein. "If you look at the alleged allegations [sic] against shooter, there's nothing sexual. There's no touching. Nothing like that."
Senate leadership has said they will not comment on pending litigation, and Shooter's attorney said they are planning more depositions as the lawsuits play out.